Listener Feedback Live: Outpost 2020
Live from Skeptoid's 2020 online conference The Outpost, it's another episode of listener feedback. All Skeptoid episodes are subject to expansion and improvement whenever a listener can add anything new to a topic, and here we present another round of bits and pieces so interesting we couldn't not add them in.
Welcome to a live episode of Skeptoid listener feedback, brought to you from Outpost 2020, the virtual fandom con aboard the space station The Outpost. Today we're going to address some feedback sent in by listeners all over the world, covering topics from conspiracy theories to ancient aliens and everything in between. We've transported these correspondents here aboard the station, so we'll get to hear their comments in person!
Let's get started with an email I received in response to Skeptoid #311, "Debunking the Rothschild Conspiracy", in which I addressed the conspiracy theory that claims the 19th century Rothschild banking family secretly still exists as a powerful monolithic entity, and today governs world affairs from behind the scenes. Listener Mark Marsh sent in this intelligent and well-reasoned rebuttal:
My take on this piece of feedback is how uncomplimentary it is to this imaginary Rothschild cabal. The implication is that this supposedly all-powerful global family could come up with no better public relations strategy than to find a relatively minor podcaster, and pay him some secret salary for more than a decade, to record episodes about Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, chemtrails, and the Flat Earth — more than 750 shows, and somewhere in there is a tiny footnote saying something like "The Rothschilds really aren't that powerful anymore" that will be heard by an insignificant number of people, who are in the choir and already know that anyway. In some dark conference room, the venerable Rothschild elders looked at one another and nodded and said "Yeah, that's our best move to defend ourselves against the razor-sharp insight of the conspiracy theorists."
If this is indeed our correspondent's position, he must not have much respect for the Rothschilds; which raises the question of why he gets worked up into such a passionate frenzy over the supposed threat they pose.
Skeptoid #191 "Did Jewish Slaves Build the Pyramids?" looked into the true identity of the builders of the great pyramids at the Giza Necropolis, and compared it to the popular Sunday School belief that they were built by Jewish slaves of the Egyptians. Listener Empress Signs sent in this thoughtful comment:
Take THAT, science!!
This correspondent does bring up one point that's deeply intriguing: that I am a "fake professor looking man". It is, in fact, the strongest part of her argument. So I'd like to give an opportunity to some of our other correspondents to wield the same logical reasoning. First, listener TX Roye used it to rebut my points in Skeptoid #81, "Ghost Hunting Tools of the Trade":
Listener John Grabowski sent the following helpful observation in response to Skeptoid #519 "Alien Implants":
And Christopher A. employed similar rhetoric to debate my conclusions in Skeptoid #404, "The Boggy Creek Monster":
And now, with apologies, we're going to turn to the dreaded subject of 9/11 truthers. In all the topics I've covered, no true believers are as passionate as those who still believe 9/11 was an inside job — they take it to fanatical extremes, with their obsessions sometimes costing them their families, their jobs, and ultimately their sanity, pursuing this ultimate conspiracy theory. This email came in response to Skeptoid #54 "The Twin Towers: Fire Melting Steel" from a listener whose name either actually is John Thomas, or who wants us to think it is:
Though I agree with this correspondent that his perspective may indeed be shared by the dumbest of children, that's unfortunately not the way we determine what conclusions are best supported by the evidence. Here's another from an anonymous fan:
Certainly, no offense taken — why would I get the impression offense was intended? And another email from Mal:
It's most amazing to me that the beliefs persists even after all these years that steel can't be softened by heat from fire. It's almost as if they've never heard of blacksmithing. And even as I said in the episode: it's perfectly easy to see actual large steel girders from buildings that collapsed due to fire alone, as there are literally hundreds of examples from World War II incendiary attacks. Some of these preserved girders have been on display since long before 9/11 at the Edo Museum in Tokyo, London's Imperial War Museum, Dresden's City Historical Museum, and others.
But more significantly, I want to highlight something you may have noticed, which is a common theme running through many of these listener comments. Here it is again illustrated by Cheri Jacobs, again in response to an episode debunking 9/11 myths:
The obsession with Jews — or with Zionists, a.k.a. Super Jews, is endemic to nearly all conspiracy theories. Why has this one minority been singled out by the conspiracy theorists as Most Likely to Conspire? It's a fact that Jews have been blamed for virtually every conspiracy theory ever since Jews betrayed Jesus to the Romans two thousand years ago, making them ultimately responsible for every bad thing that's happened in the Western Christian world over the ensuing centuries. They are perceived as having the ultimate power and wielding the ultimate evil, with all nations chained in servitude to the Zionists. As English writer David Baddiel has noted, the Zionists are basically SPECTRE, which makes the conspiracy theorist James Bond.
Let's take one more piece of feedback before leaving the realm of conspiracy theories. This one came via Twitter in response to a tweet I made debunking the supposed "proofs" that the obviously fake alt-right hero "QAnon" is actually a real government insider, and not just some genius troll having the time of his life catfishing the Alex Jones fan base. It came from Trava Moco MAGA:
Let's play "Name the logical fallacy." If you don't believe that the hilariously, ludicrously fake personality "QAnon" is a real government operative, you:
What's the logical fallacy here? Shout it out.... False dichotomy. The options offered are not the only ones, rather they are merely the least likely possibilities, and no mention is offered of all the other far more probable ones. Such as, for example, QAnon is some genius comedian yanking all the conspiracy theorists' chains.
So please, let's retreat to the relative sanity of hard science. Skeptoid #454 "GMO Facts and Fiction" discussed, among other things, the many ways we've been altering the genome of plant crops for centuries, besides direct genetic manipulation. Most notable among these is simple cross pollination. Daran wrote:
Although the value to Daran's argument of references to the Bible and to leavening are unclear to me, I do agree that cross pollination is not like inserting genes. They are two different methods to change the plant's genes to better suit us. Author Mark Lynas compares banning genetic engineering in favor of cross pollination to "allowing brain surgeons to use a blunderbuss but not a scalpel." You'll change the genes all right, but who knows what you'll get. For some reason, anti-GMO activists consider this relative uncertainty a merit.
Skeptoid #635 "The Effects of Mandated GMO Labeling" riled up not just the anti-GMO crowd, but the anti-glyphosate crowd also: why embrace only one flavor of food woo, when you can embrace them all. Glyphosate is one of our newest and safest herbicides needed for farming, harmless to people and animals because we don't photosynthesize and thus lack the physiology with which glyphosate interferes. A bravely anonymous correspondent charged:
We could beat a dead horse and point out that virtually every scientific body on the planet criticized the World Health Organization placement of glyphosate into their Group 2A classification, which means that there is limited or insufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans. Even all the other groups within the World Health Organization have protested it. The fact is there is no evidence of carcinogenicity of humans — at least, not evidence that passes any kind of scrutiny. Glyphosate belongs in Group 4, which means evidence suggests a lack of carcinogenicity in humans.
Moving onto physics. Skeptoid #341 "Free Energy Machines" deconstructed the many claims for perpetual motion machines, devices which run all by themselves with no fuel source, and can be used to produce free unlimited energy forever. Of course they don't exist, as is trivially proven by the laws of thermodynamics, but many conspiracy theorists insist they're real and the government covers them up, because reasons. Listener Ted Smith wrote in with his expertly crafted argument:
I would like to see this as the complete text of a journal article. It would really liven up the scientific literature.
Skeptoid #140 "The Bosnian Pyramids" analyzed some claims — popular in Europe — that a particular hill in Bosnia that's vaguely pyramidical on two sides is actually an ancient human-made pyramid. Lest you suspect there is no urban legend so goofy that nobody would be deathly passionate about it, hear the comment from listener "xX MoAzrael1 Xx":
I asked him for some citations — still waiting hopefully.
This next piece of feedback came into the general email inbox with no context and does not appear to be a response to any specific episode. In fact I'm not sure it even represents a specific line of thought. It came from Richard Stemle, and began with the familiar adage:
Gee, never heard that one before. Wooists always deliver this phrase as if it's a zinger, a real gotcha, that will leave the skeptics speechless.
At this point, I'm putting on my seatbelt in my office chair, because I'm expecting a wild ride.
I'm not sure at what point in your email you realized it was a fool's errand, I'm just glad that moment finally did arrive.
Regarding this correspondent's penultimate thought — just before the somewhat-misplaced advice that I get a job that is not imaginary — it was suggested that I shouldn't debunk philosophical methods. I don't recall ever having done so, as it's not relevant to my show; so I invite this correspondent to please write again, so that we can continue this productive (and instructive) conversation.
And we are at last down to the final email. This one bears the byline of Fuzzy Zoeller, the noted golfer. So either Fuzzy is a big-time Skeptoid listener, or this was written by someone hoping to be measured by Fuzzy's presumed critical thinking skills. It came in response to Skeptoid #92, "Rethinking Nuclear Power", an episode which (like all Skeptoid podcasts) had no background music:
It took Fuzzy to unmask me as QAnon.
So listeners, keep that feedback coming. Except in the cases of all the emails included in this episode, feedback generally improves the quality of the show. But once in a long while we have to open up the drain at the bottom of the sump and let the sludge drain out. That's done, so now we can get back to the business of great stories, great feedback, and the shining of bright light on our favorite pop culture mysteries. So until next time, there's one thought I will leave you with, and that's to always be skeptical.
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